Skyrocketing property taxes squeeze Jackson County residents

By Patrice Clark - bio | email

Ocean Springs, MS (WLOX) - High property tax bills have thousands of Jackson County homeowners worrying how they will afford the increase. Skyrocketing insurance rates and mortgages, matched with a weak economy have many homeowners financially strained.

"I can't believe this, this is way too much."

Betty Ribarin says every time she looks at her new property tax bill she gets angry.

"Good gracious that is a lot of money," Ribarin said.

In 2002, the 84-year-old says she paid $77 in taxes because of her homestead exemption, it provides a 75-thousand dollar tax relief to seniors 65 or older.

But Katrina pushed property values up, and the value of her home jumped from 85-thousand dollars to 149-thousand dollars. So, Ribarin's property tax bill shot way up.

"$993.56, that is a lot of difference. They should redo these and make them cheaper," said Ribarin.

Ribarin is not alone in her struggles, several thousands of people are affected by these sky rocketing tax bills. County officials say there is little they can do to change the numbers.

"It's a state problem, they require reappraisals every four years and  I wish it was every year because you wouldn't see these big spikes. The total land value of Jackson County is way over a billion dollars," Jackson County Supervisor John McKay said.

McKay says the county lowered its millage rate to give residents a tax cut, and now he says the state should step in and increase the Homestead Exemption.

"Hear this cry from these people, and do something about the Homestead Exemptions. 75- thousand dollars doesn't help the elderly on the gulf coast, where the home values are much more."

That doesn't help Betty Ribarin who has to find extra money to pay her taxes now.

"I will have to cut down or cut something off like insurance. If the house burns down, I will have nothing," Ribarin said.

Citizens have until February first to pay their taxes without interest.